With the 2012 presidential election still fresh in our minds, I’d like to propose to the little piece of America that reads my column a different approach for voters four years from now.
But let me set the stage first, with a little perspective:
We just witnessed perhaps the most misleading presidential campaigns of modern times. By one estimate, more than a million campaign ads ran on television, nearly all in nine or 10 swing states, mostly containing innuendo and half-truths to advance the candidates’ mudslinging agendas.
Moreover, the party conventions have evolved into little more than show business, and the debates have become long on style and short on substance. Some in the mainstream media did an admirable job this time around by fact-checking the candidates’ claims, but that just showed us how both sides were twisting the truth to their advantage.
Of course, about 80-90 percent of the electorate had their minds made up before any of this hit. I think most voters made up their minds on Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Barack Obama first got elected President.
This nation is deeply divided. Over the next four years, I figure we’ll either get over our blind partisanship and our cynicism for anything having to do with the other side or we’ll implode in a fit of rage against everything we don’t understand but think we do.
We’ve got a big test with an even bigger deadline next month, when Congress and the President face the “fiscal cliff” called the Budget Control Act. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement soon, some pretty harsh spending cuts and tax increases will take effect, and we’ll probably sink back into a recession.
But I digress, so let’s get to my proposal. It’s sort of a litmus test the voters can use in 2016. The reason I’m suggesting it so early is that I think it will make better sense now, while modern presidential campaigning remains fresh in our minds.
First, let’s quit believing anything the televised campaign ads say.
Sure, there’s an element of truth in them, but they’re never the whole truth, so voters should just tune them out. And remember, they’re trying to leave an impression in your mind, so do what you have to do to resist. Don’t let them get in your head.
And second, let’s quit believing what the candidates themselves say.
They massage the truth to the benefit of their audiences. During the primaries most of the presidential wannabes are catering to their party’s base because that’s what it takes to get the nomination, then they move to the center as the general election approaches, because the center is where the undecideds reside. In other words, they say what the voters they need at the time want to hear. So why believe them?
So what do we have left? Simply this: The candidates’ records and their past behavior.
The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do, and what you’ve done, that counts. Let’s not let the candidates impress us with hypotheticals, like what they’d do if elected. Let’s look at what they’ve done, that’s far more telling.
Also, I personally think their party loyalties are telling. A candidate’s willingness to break from the party line suggests a certain level of independence that I like.
All this is important because, unless Americans resist the influence of Big Money on presidential campaigns, our votes will no longer be free.
They’ll be purchased.
However, if we ignore the campaign ads and the scripted rhetoric and instead examine that which makes the candidates who they are, the superPACs and the spinmeisters will not matter so much.
Maybe we’re not so far from that already. After all, the Romney campaign outspent Obama and look who won anyway.
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796 or email@example.com.